Of Public Funds and Empty Suits (and Dancing)

I’m going to get a little bit political here.

No, that’s not true. I’m going to get a lot political here. No point dancing around the subject. Especially since it seems dance brought it up, at least kind of. 

As a photographer, I have a deep appreciation for the arts and for arts education. I have a good understanding of what artistic expression brings into our lives. I know that art isn’t all things to all people, nor does it try to be. Art educates us, informs us, calms us, angers us, and most important, art makes us think about the larger world outside of our own local bubbles.

These days, STEM education is all the rage. That’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, in case you aren’t familiar with the acronym. STEM disciplines are vital to our growth, to our future, and are necessary for future progress. Simply put, STEM education is important. Just as important as arts education.

Not more important. Just as important.

Here in Arkansas, two of our elected state officials don’t seem to agree. In fact, they seem to think arts education (and by extension – the arts) aren’t important. At least, not important enough to spend taxpayer dollars advocating for arts education.

So, when the University of Arkansas at Little Rock placed a billboard advertising their campus that features a dance major prominently splashed across two thirds of said billboard’s real estate, these two elected officials, Senator Bart Hester (R-Cave City) and Representative Bob Ballinger (R-Hindsville) didn’t much like it. They apparently think the sign (if not arts education itself) is a waste of money.

                                                              Bart's Tweet

Bart, empty suit that he is, didn’t like it enough that he put a post on Twitter, thus making sure that many people would know he didn’t like it. And Bob, bless his flinty little heart, retweeted Bart’s tweet, thus propelling Bart’s sentiments to all of his followers as well.

                                                                    Bob's Retweet

Bart is right about one thing. A lot of hardworking Arkansans are subsidizing this. He says it’s not okay. Well, I’m a taxpaying Arkansan so it appears I’m subsidizing this sign, and I’m perfectly okay with it.

There are a few things that I help subsidize with my taxes that I’m not okay with, but I understand I won’t always get my way. I have to take the good with the bad. Here are a few things I help subsidize that I don’t like:

  • Capital Punishment – State sanctioned murder is still murder, regardless of the justification, especially in light of evidence that suggests we kill a lot more innocent people than we’d like to admit.
  • Juvenile Prisons – Call ‘em state homes, youth facilities, reform schools, it doesn’t matter. They are little more than places where we send good kids to become bad kids, bad kids to be worse kids, and unredeemable kids to run the place. There are better ways.
  •  Bart and Bob are each paid $39,400 annually plus $153 per diem for days they are in Little Rock on legislative business (either in session or in committee). Plus mileage. Every nickel of it subsidized by hardworking Arkansans.

I don’t think UALR’s sign is the problem.

Vote. It’s important.